Thursday, 11 June 2009

Cort-ma Law hill race

Wow, I'd forgotten: a hill race is a different animal than a road race.

It was a near-perfect Scottish evening. Some minor, brief showers had cleared, the sun was out, and the hills looked inviting.

After a slightly hectic day, I pushed my Honda Civic through the winding country roads leading to the site of the race.

I arrived in reasonable time, found a parking spot, and collected a number. The Cort-ma Law race was a 10K hill race, not far from Glasgow, and part of a series of such races taking place on Wednesday evenings.

I'd run it once before, 5 years ago, and remember it as being quite boggy and tough.

The crowd was comprised of 99 runners. Most were members of local running teams. 10K in the hills is not 10k on the roads; it is much, much tougher, and you don't get as many casual runners.

I started too fast, and, as in many hill races, the climbing started right away. I have limited ability in running uphill. I quickly reach my oxygen-debt limit. Initially there were only about 10 runners in front of me, but I quickly slowed, and many passed me. On the steepest bits of the climb, I walked. Many others were walking as well. I wanted to preserve my energy a bit. You can't really run once the slope is too great, so walking is just about the same.

Eventually it levelled out, and I started trotting. The sun was out, I was sweating, but it was a glorious evening. In one hand I carried a waterproof jacket, in the other a small zip-loc bag with a map of the route, a compass, and a whistle. These are required for all runners in this type of event.

There were more climbs, but none as steep as the intial one, and we reached the summit of Cort-ma law. The overall route of the race was a backwards P, with the start at the base of the P, the summit of Cort-ma law at the top of the P, and a loop back to the stem of the P with another hill taken in. The path thusfar was mostly been grass and dirt. Sheep grazed on the hill.

From the summit, we descended a bit, and entered a more level stretch of terrain that was punctuated by bogs. With the relatively dry weather, these weren't too wet, but there was certainly some give to the sphagnum moss.

At the summit of the next hill, I sped up on the descent and caught a few people. The route was now in the loop of the "P", and was heading back to our initial, outbound path. Usually in a hill race, I make my time on the descent, as it isn't as limited by lung capacity.

I plunged in the first bog shortly after this. I was trying to jump over it, and one of my legs went in pretty deep. I extracted myself, and continued, but lost a few places.

Another descent, along a wire fence, led to a small stream. I was again striding out a bit when I fell into a second bog. Here I scratched my leg on what appeated to be a water pipe running through the bog.

Up again, and there was a climb back to the inbound race route came back on itself, and there was a pleasant, level stretch of running along a sort-of path in the evening sun. Occasionally, one had to jump down a peat "hag" - a slight depression in the peat.

I had exerted myself, and felt occasional cramps in my calfs.

We then began the descent back to the start line, and I tried to speed up.

A woman in front of me was running strong, but I stayed with her.

A motto in hill descending is "brain off, brakes off". You don't try to control your speed too much - you just go.

I caught the woman in front of me a slight rocky bit of the path. I accelerated.

Shortly afterwards my feet went out from under me, and I fell hard. I dropped the jacked I'd been holding in one hand, and rolled several times.

I got up, ran to where my jacket had landed, and sprinted towards the finish line.

Muddy and scraped, I crossed it in 45th place, in a time of 60:40. With the drier conditions than my initial attempt on this race, I'd shaved 6 mins off of my earlier time.

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